Graham v. Lombardi

In Graham v. Lombardi, 784 P.2d 813 (Colo. App. 1989), the Colorado Court of Appeals confronted the same situation presented in Wilkerson's case: a police officer was allowed to offer his opinion that the defendant was a violent person, but the officer's opinion was based solely on his review of the case files pertaining to prior incidents of which the officer had no personal knowledge. The Colorado court held that this testimony was improper because the officer's opinion was not based on personal knowledge: Testimony about character offered in the form of an opinion by a lay witness is limited by Colorado Evidence Rule 701 to opinions rationally based on the witness' perception ... . The requirement that the opinion be based on the witness' perception embodies the requirement of personal knowledge contained in Colorado Evidence Rule 602. See 3 Weinstein's Evidence, supra, 70102 at 701-14; see also United States v. Dotson, 799 F.2d 189 (5th Cir. 1986). Here, the police witness had not been involved in the former incidents which provided the basis for his opinion. The witness had none of the personal knowledge necessary to provide a basis for his own perception of the plaintiff's character for violence. The personal knowledge necessary to support a witness' opinion concerning character must be based on more than pre-trial review of police reports or the witness' involvement in criminal investigations. See United States v. Dotson, supra (character evidence as to truthfulness inadmissible if only basis for opinions of government agents was their involvement in criminal investigation of defendants); Government of Virgin Islands v. Petersen, 553 F.2d 324, 14 V.I. 24 (3rd Cir. 1977) (observation of defendant's behavior over time is the recognized basis for both opinion and reputation testimony about character); United States v. Salazar, 425 F.2d 1284 (9th Cir. 1970) (two months of occasional business dealings insufficient to qualify witness to testify about defendant's reputation for honesty). Accordingly, the opinion testimony here should have been excluded. (Id. at 814-15.)